The Orlando Magic acquired point-guard Gilbert Arenas, shooting-guard Jason Richardson and small-forward Hedo Turkoglu days before the end of this past season’s trade deadline.
With plenty of promise for the postseason, the Magic ultimately finished the 2010-11′ season in disappointment, losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.
But what went wrong?
Just one year ago, Orlando dismantled the Atlanta Hawks in the 2010 playoffs, not only sweeping them in four games, but also winning by a ridiculous average of just over 25 points per game while doing so.
With franchise center Dwight Howard set to become an unrestricted free-agent during the 2012 offseason, the Magic organization is in undercover panic mode.
Rumors have swarmed throughout the NBA world thus far as to where Howard could land after next season, and if Orlando doesn’t bring in some talent to surround Howard with, they could end up losing their superstar just like the Cleveland Cavaliers did.
According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, “A source also said discussions between Atlanta and Orlando with Josh Smith going to the Magic are “totally legit.” Executives say the Hawks have expressed an eagerness to move Smith and would like to shed salary in the process.”
With confirmation that this rumor speaks the truth, Magic fans may be able to ease their nerves if Atlanta and Orlando can come to an agreement.
But the question comes down to whether or not a deal can actually be made, and even if it can, will this entice Howard to stay in Orlando?
Well, let’s dig into this scenario a bit further.
Josh Smith and Dwight Howard have known each other before they both hit the NBA spotlight.
Years ago, Smith and Howard were teammates on the Atlanta Celtics AAU team in high school.
With both players being such good friends, the Magic could potentially sway Howard to re-sign with the team if they are able to acquire Smith.
But whom can Orlando give up in return for the 2005 Slam Dunk champion?
“The Magic are going to have to give up good players (Jameer Nelson, Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick) to get this done if it even can happen under the new labor agreement,” said Kurt Helin, the Managing Editor for ProBasketballTalk.com at NBC Sports.
“While the two sides likely had a very preliminary conversation, no trades of major contracts are going to happen until the new labor agreement is in place,” said Helin. “That said, Orlando needs to do something to shake up it’s roster and Smith would be a good fit next to Dwight Howard, the problem is, what does Orlando have that the Hawks would really want?”
When the Magic acquired Arenas and Turkoglu before the trade deadline this past season, they knew going in that both players had inflated contracts.
Arenas is set to make $19.2 million during the 2011-’12 season and upwards of $43 million throughout the two seasons after that, while Turkoglu is expected to rake in just over $34 million during the next three years.
With payouts like those, it will be close to impossible for the Magic to dump both contracts this offseason.
“The two teams talked prior to the draft, but Orlando has limited trade chips,” said staff writer Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld.com. “I think Atlanta would be able to find a better offer than a package centered around Jameer Nelson and either Ryan Anderson or Brandon Bass.”
While it appears evident that Atlanta and Orlando have discussed a deal, Kennedy believes it’s very unlikely for a trade to be made at this point, even though Howard and Smith would love to reunite.
The Magic are stuck in a tough situation right now, and if they cannot provide Howard with a championship contending team, then he might just take his talents elsewhere.